Study Guide

Apocalypse Now Scene 5

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Scene 5

Scene 5

What's that Smell?

  • Next day, they board the helicopters. They take off to the sound of the bugler's call.
  • The helicopters fly across the dawning, orange sky.
  • On board, Kilgore and Lance keep talking about surfing and what kind of board is best. Lance prefers a heavy board. Kilgore agrees; what's up with all these young guys using those light boards?
  • Kilgore orders them to assume attack formation. He tells Lance that he blasts music by Wagner—a German composer also favored by none other than Adolf Hitler—from his helicopter whenever he attacks. He says it terrifies the enemy and the villagers.
  • They crank up the classic Wagner opera tune "Ride of the Valkyries" as they approach the beach.
  • Cut to the placid Vietnamese village, where school kids are stepping out of the classroom. They hear the helicopters approaching and run to hide.
  • Throughout a Viet Cong encampment, VC soldiers are scrambling. The helicopters start blasting the beaches with rockets and machine guns.
  • The VC shoot back with their own machine guns, and one copter gets hit. More rockets and machine guns fire and more Vietnamese die.
  • They blow a car full of VC right off a bridge, knocking it into the water.
  • On Kilgore's copter, a flare blows up, but everyone's okay.
  • The copters start to land, and soldiers storm the beach.
  • In the little village's square, the U.S. soldiers are helping a wounded comrade.
  • A Vietnamese woman tosses a bomb into a copter landing in the square and blows it up. A burning soldier jumps out.
  • One of the helicopters guns down the woman and her two accomplices as they try to run away.
  • From his copter, Kilgore effuses about how good the surfing seems to be.
  • Kilgore's copter lands, and Kilgore talks about surfing as rockets explode around him. He insists that it's fine to surf despite all the fighting going on. He calls in planes to drop napalm on the village.
  • They do.
  • Then, Kilgore gives his famous speech about napalm: "I love the smell of napalm in the morning…It smelled like victory." He says, somewhat regretfully, "Someday this war's gonna end."

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